Storied Past, Bright Future
A Short Story
“It’s already been three months! I can’t believe this,” Retta cries.
“Oh honey,” her mom hugs her close, “for some witches it can take up to a year to find their Familiar… don’t worry.”
Another sob and she tosses herself against her pillows. Her blonde curls flitter forward over her face, she huffs and shoves the mass behind her. “I just want my fur baby already! All my friends have theirs! Cindy got a crow - totally classic, Andie got a garden snake - you know she loves outdoors, April got a snowy owl - just like Harry Potter, and Jamie stumbled upon and rescued a Husky puppy - unusual but totally her! Ugh! And now they can do the next level of spells and potions and I’m falling so far behind. I was at the top of my class and now I can’t even do any of the work. This is so messed up.”
Her mom squeezes her calf, “Just keep yourself open, Loretta.”
Retta’s green eyes roll, “I know: open mind, open heart, open soul… letting the universe flow through me - good energy out brings good energy in.”
Her mom sighs, “How about a special dinner tonight? Have something in mind or would you rather have take-out?”
The eighteen year old witch turns and lays flat on her fluffy pink comforter, looking up at the star map on her ceiling. “Thai sounds good… does thai sound good?”
“Sure, honey… you want your usual?”
Watery eyes look down her nose, “Please?”
A deep sigh, another calf squeeze, and her mom lifts from the bed. “I’ll call you down when it’s here.”
Listless tone and she curls around her pillow once more. “Thanks, Mom.”
After her door is closed, Retta shifts herself to sit up against a wall of pillows, arm around her legs, head on her knees. Looking around her room she looks at all her mementoes of triumph, trying to stay away from the self-pity rabbit hole.
Champagne walls, sheer lavender curtains around the paneled windows, plush window seat between white filled-to-the-brim bookcases. Thick gold frames with an inch of glass before showcasing inspirational quotes with floral design over her work zone. An antique white writing desk sits with various crystals, stones, and a sturdy salt lamp; with her favorite little ‘Magical Kitties’ Pusheen plushies - dragon Pusheen, Pegasus Stormy and Dragon Stormy; with a spiraling design, gold case holding a three-wick Rose Water And Ivy candle from Bath And Body Works; and then her matte millennial pink laptop. White layered box shelves hold various gymnastics trophies and commemorative knick-knacks from her ballet recitals and Nene Thomas bubble-riding fairies. The little wall space between the end of her walk-in closet and the bedroom door is filled with butterflies - all real, in sturdy plastic display cases. Back by her bed, above her night stand with an antique lamp with Edison Bulb, Polaroids are clipped with mini gold clothespins on a fairy-light gold wire - the images going back to the summer before Middle School. Her clique so strong then and was that strong until the first sweet-sixteen four months ago. Now with her being left behind and Graduation from High School a month away, everything seems to be falling apart.
There is Senior Prom, of course… this weekend in fact and there was nothing that could stop that night from going perfectly. This inspired Retta to climb out of bed, wipe her cheeks and head into her closet. Her stunningly gorgeous dress is hanging dead center over the drawers built-in.
The gown is made just for her and was finished with the seamstress on Monday. Shimming gold fabric stretched from the high neck down to the underarms (making it sleeveless), over the sweetheart bodice, and the waistband lay perfect on the smallest part of her hourglass torso. From the waist flow layers and layers of chiffon in shades of gold, blush, and champagne. The high-low skirt has the front trim resting just above her knees and the rest puffs out like a ballgown.
Retta is already planning on ELF Cosmetics Rose Gold Eyeshadow Pallet and their Blushing Rose matte lipstick, a royal wedding worthy up-do, a Roman inspired gold circlet, and rose gold nail polish - mani and pedi. Her strappy heels are matching gold as well, though her clutch purse is this almost opalescent material.
She knew Orion would be bringing blush pink roses Saturday evening - a bouquet for her desk and a little corsage for her wrist. Another bolt of happiness strikes through her and her fingers reach for her necklace. Retta is blessed by the Goddesses that her significant other had been her friend since third grade, their first date at the day after school let out before Christmas of Freshman year, and they’ve been going steady since that New Years Eve. Both eager and blissfully happy, they went through the proper courting rituals, he accepting to be her warlock consort and her his betrothed. Though she only needed her mother’s approval, given she was reigning Sovereign Witch, it was really good to know the whole coven approved and her clique adores him.
Eyes going unfocused, her fingers slide the gold compass necklace up and down its chain. Any time her anxiety levels rose, holding her fingers on the gift from Orion helped. One gold plate had the compass with little diamonds for points, the other had the inscription ‘Our love with guide us home’. Maybe it was the energy he had woven through it, maybe it’s all her love that’s settled there, but either way it was a simple little habit working better than the breathing exercises her mom made her do.
This whole lack-of-Familiar thing is really messing with her head, making her feel totally down. She knew downs were a natural part of life and it isn’t a completely foreign concept but they are not often and spread far apart. But now, or since two weeks ago when she became the last member of her clique not to have her Familiar by her side, the down just keeps getting deeper and darker. It feels like a constant battle to Retta, of her always trying to remind herself of how successful she really is. For her age she actually accomplished quite a lot and that doesn’t just go away because she’s Familiar-less.
But Goddess above! She wanted a little fur baby to love and adore and bond with, to gather strength from and get help with her spell work. There’s an actual change that is not just visual but can be felt near the witch. (Orion says the same about Warlocks, based off his brother and his friends, but warlocks don’t get theirs until they’re twenty.) That’s something that Retta not only wants but feels entitled to. She has a natural talent and skill, maybe from her royal bloodline, but also has studied her ass off in both High School - graduating Valedictorian - but also in her Sorcery Academy - Head Girl three years running. If there is anyone who deserves to get to that next level, it’s Retta.
Sitting gently on her window seat, her eyes look through the panes, to the Spring rain falling on her mother’s garden. Sliding the window up a couple inches, the clean hair flitters in through the screen. Fresh, beautiful, full of life…. They say ‘April showers bring May flowers’ but Retta adores that those showers don’t leave until end of Autumn. Bright, light sprinkling showers throughout Spring, rolling thunderstorms thick in Summer afternoons, then fresh, chilly rain with the rising and setting of the Autumn sun. Retta found rain to be the most beautiful thing in nature, though her element being water may make her biased.
Suddenly there is a holler up the stairs, “Loretta! Food!”
“Hey! Don’t forget to finish that bottle,” Andie points to Retta’s lemon Voss Water.
“I know,” she drags out then takes a deep swig.
She squints, “Com’on! We’re going to be in these tight dresses, eating close to nothing, drinking soda, dancing! We’re going to get dehydrated.”
Cindy holds her hand over her perfectly flat stomach and watches herself turn in the antique mirror on the back of Retta’s closet. “I don’t know, Andie. I don’t want to bloat….”
We all roll our eyes. Cindy has been the picture of health and thinness for two years but all she sees is her Middle School self, when she was overweight, unhappy, and didn’t really take care of herself at all.
“Babe,” Retta exhales slowly, “you’re perfect, com’on. We all need to stay hydrated so that we can get through that after party tonight!”
Jamie claps her hands, “I am so excited! Everything tonight is going to be so jammed packed and ah-mazing.”
“It’s going to be fabulous and I cannot wait to fill a whole ‘nother photo book from this weekend,” agrees April.
After another two hours of slowly getting ready, chilling and chatting but getting pumped, the clique is finally ready. As usual, Retta is in full Alpha mode, the most effervescent of the lot, literally glittering gold. April, as true Beta, is in an a-line, silvery gown. Cindy and Andie and Jamie are all equal under them; nature Andie is in a dark emerald velvet mermaid dress; adventurous Jamie is in a two part outfit, white lace crop top and a black tulle skirt; and timeless Cindy is in a burgundy satin fit and flare with little straps from the sweetheart neckline over her shoulders.
“The boys should be arriving soon, we should get some group shots before they do,” April looks to Retta.
Retta glances up at her from her phone, “Mhm. Orion just texted me that they’re leaving his house now.”
Once downstairs in the main foyer, Retta’s mother had set the long wall to be a perfect backdrop for photos. Classic, elegant, simple, vintage versus the glam and glitter and balloons that will be the Prom photo-op. Retta knew this would be social media gold but also perfect for memories. Already this night was making all that down time farther and farther in the past.
Pose after pose, all together and singles and different combinations, serious and silly, then a there is a loud knocking that cut through the giggling and clapping. Retta beams and rushes to the door, “Boys are here!”
Tall, dark, handsome, looking like a mix between Loki and Zac Efron in The Greatest Showman, Orion is quick to enter, grab Retta’s waist and kiss her softly. He learned a long time ago how to quickly peck her to not mess up the lipstick, but carrying the same passion as a long kiss by squeezing her tight. “Hi,” his voice husky, low and soft, her nose almost touching hers.
“I missed you!”
He chuckles and brushes a blonde curl over Retta’s shoulder. “We saw each other last night.”
“Well, yeah, but that was forever ago,” she teases as she pulls him in to start getting pictures.
He wraps his arm around her waist, “And now we’ll be together all night! Prom, the after party, going to see the sunrise at the beach, breakfast at Denny’s….”
She slides her hand over his and brushes her thumb against his knuckles, “It’s going to be perfect.”
Music pounding, everyone dancing, the stage of the local theater is filled to the brim with Seniors. Black, silver, and gold decorations are everywhere the committee could reach, this Great Gatsby theme celebration is a total hit. With sparkling grape juice bubbling up a plastic champagne flute in hand, Retta smiles up at Orion. “That crown looks rather dashing on you.”
He lifts his drink to her, “And your tiara rivals the royals.”
She tilts her head towards the main entrance to the stage, “Let’s go cool down for a minute, yeah?”
Orion is quick to take her hand and follow her lead, “Of course, my love.”
Weaving through a little walkway they take a few steps down into a dressed up waiting area. Lots of curls were sitting with their shoes off, boys without their ties and jackets. The couple finds an empty table in the back, by the wall of windows. As Orin slips off the crown, Retta eyes the twinkle lights in the trees just outside the halls. “Tonight really has been so wonderful.”
“And it’s only just started, we still have so much to do.”
Her eyes come to his, “You know… I’ve been feeling kind of down lately, but honestly? I really feel back to normal now.”
“Good music, yummy snacks and drinks, fun with friends, and I mean, you have a pretty fantastic fiancé.”
She laughs and eases back into her chair, fingers brushing over her puffy skirt. “Exactly! It’s just so… freeing and relaxing and fun and….”
“And you’re feeling light and open?”
Rolling her eyes, she still laughs lightly. “Open mind, open heart, open soul….”
“Your mom’s worried, that’s all.”
She squints, “I don’t know how I feel about you guys talking….”
He eyes a cup full of soda, “She is going to be my mother-in-law.”
One shoulder shrug, “I suppose.”
His caramel eyes find her and he smiles softly. “I love you.”
Retta’s finger reach up to her necklace. “I know, baby. I love you too.”
Reaching forward he pulls her chair over to his. Tucking her close to his chest, he pecks her temple. “I’m sorry things have been rough recently. But I’m really glad you’re feeling so much better tonight.”
Hand curling up to his face she scratches her his scruff, “When’s Tommy’s after party start, anyway? Prom ends in, like, twenty minutes. I guess there’s going to be a slow meandering to cars, lots of post Prom pictures… then we’ll get to his house?”
“I think so. I got a text that he and Jamie already headed over to start getting stuff ready. I’m sure we’ll get a text from Cindy and Don, Andie and Chris soon, saying that they’re there to help - they’re good like that.”
“April and Ceasar will wait for us, of course.”
“As true Beta’s do,” he confirms.
“I do love them, though. They’re fantastic and they’ve been such great friends with us for so long.”
“They’re already being the most amazing Maid Of Honor and Best Man we could ask for.”
“Oh gosh… that’s coming up isn’t it? This then graduation then the Summer Solstice wedding.”
Tight arms, fingers brushing against skin, a kiss on hair. Soft and low, calming tone, “We have so much still ahead of us tonight. Let’s just focus on that, yeah?”
Retta fiddles with her necklace. A few deep breaths on top of that and she eases, “Right, right…. Let’s go grab April and Ceaser, yeah? Get some pictures while the hall is still clear.”
All the girls still rockin’ their prom dresses, the boys in their slacks and shirts tucked but no ties and a couple buttons loose, a lot of people shoeless. Solo cups all over the place, snack and junk food on tables and counters. Someone even ordered a dozen pizzas with a few fresh two-litters. Alcohol, of course, made its way into the kitchen, and Retta currently nurses a Shirley Temple that is equal parts Vodka and Sprite.
Everyone in turn did a second round of congratulations to their High School’s power couple and though she put on a smile and her charm, Retta really just wants to relax. Tugging Orion’s shirt she nods to the back door. “Let’s get some air.”
The party spilled into the backyard within thirty minutes, but they were able to find a decently quiet spot by Tommy’s mom’s bird bath. “You doing okay?” Orion asks softly, brushing back some loose strands away from his fiancé’s face.
She shrugs. “I wish I brought a change of clothes, honestly. I know the whole thing is us in our prom outfits through this and then the beach and then Denny’s but I feel like I have to be ‘on’ while still in this thing,” she waves to the gold wrapped around her.
“You really do look stunning though.”
Still getting those new-love butterflies she leans into him. “Thank you. Though, if you think I’m stunning now, man… when that aisle comes I’m gonna knock your socks off.”
“I can’t wait.”
A happy sigh and she closes her eyes. The air still holds the smell of rain from the afternoon and that causes her arm hair to rise. “Everything is actually pretty fucking fantastic isn’t it?”
He kisses her shoulder, “I think so, at least.”
Eyes open, she takes a swig of her drink. “It’s weird to think we’ve been preparing for these events for so long. I mean, the girls and I started prep for Prom after the Junior one last year, and really prep for graduation goes back to the start of Freshman year…. And us… well I suppose that started when we were nine?” she giggles. “And yet, now, everything seems to be zooming by like a flash of lightning! We were just at Senior Prom, now where here…. A few more hours and we’re all pilling in cars to head to the beach. Then we’re off to Denny’s. School starts back up on Monday and we drive right in to finales prep. Few more weeks then boom! Graduation. But you know, though…” she continues slowly, “I feel really good about it all. Really… even, steady. I’m not scared, I’m not even really worried….”
“You’re always the one that says ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘everything will turn out alright in the end’,” he replies with a tinge of snark.
Eyes drawn to the sky about, the almost full moon shines light on the few wisps of clouds floating through the sky, some stars visible beyond them. “It’s a fantastic night, that’s all. I think it’s something we all needed… something I needed. And you know,” she looks into Orion’s face, “my mom did say she was going to be out all Sunday and that she totally understands if you need a place to crash after being up all night. She said, and I quote, ‘After he gets you home safe, I’m not sure he’ll be awake enough to drive across the city’, unquote.”
Instantly very awake and excited, a surge of energy pushing through the drinks he consumes to relax him, his eyes widen and a brow cocks. “Oh?”
“My king bed is calling our name,” she smirks.
He curls around her and pulls her against him, “Your bed is ridiculously comfortable.”
There’s a sudden call from just outside the back door, April calling for us to play Mario Kart, “Whoever get hits with a shell has to take a shot!” And just like that a new chapter of the night is started.
Orion driving with Retta in passenger, April and Ceaser in the back, Tommy and Jamie driving car two, with Cindy, Don, Andie, and Chris shoved in the back. Alpha couple offered to take a fifth, but all the couples of the night just didn’t want to let each other go. The beach was only a short drive, anyway. Everyone seems to get their second wind around the same time and that lined up perfectly with needed to get over to the beach. Beach on the East Coast of the United States really had some of the most beautiful and picturesque sunrises. And when they all ran barefoot down to the shoreline, their excitement and internal fire seemed to block out the soft chill of the salty ocean air. Jamie is the only other one who’s element is water, and she strolls up alongside Retta.
“Simply gorgeous, isn’t it?”
Though the orb itself was still under the watery horizon, the sun’s light was breaching the sky before them. To their backs the sky was still dark, though quickly fading into purple. The sky ahead though… a brilliant display of golden beams against a crimson sky, clouds reflecting pinks and oranges, and the almost still water mirroring it perfectly. Though little waves rippled a few steps ahead, the waves did not crash on this morning. Even the earth seemed slow and happy and at ease.
“Truly… just… indescribable.”
Jamie turns to Retta a little and places her hand gently on her shoulder. “I know things have been rough for you and I’m really sorry.” Jamie was surly closer to April and Andie, but when Retta and her have their moments, they are really moments of significance. “We all want to help you and support you but we all feel like we couldn’t talk about it. But I don’t know… you’ve got this glow tonight - today…. You’ve got the vibe, my lady.”
“Really?” Retta asks excitedly. “Like my aura?”
“That’s what I’m saying,” she beams. This was one of her specialties. Her eyes had this glint, her pupils going wide. “Not sure when, but soon…. And I had a dream it’s a cat. So, maybe, put out so tuna or something.” A little nod and she turns back to the ocean. “Just so beautiful….”
The exciting news and thoughts of a Familiar drifted in to Retta’s mind but drifted out just as fast, like waves at her feet. It was a nice sentiment from Jamie, reminding them why their friends, but for once, her mind did not obsess. Her last day and night had been so full of adventure and memories and success, the dawn ahead making her feel purely optimistic and excited for the days to come. Bubbling with happiness, Retta wanders to find Orion.
Slacks rolled to his knees, shirt rolled to his elbows, he’s chatting with April and Ceasar. Retta quickly finds her place right next to him and just happy enough just to listen to their conversation. In yet another debate of which is better: The Office or Parks And Recreation or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the answer is always the same but they still long hash out all the details of the plots and the relationships and the best comedic moments. They all had binged those shows together - all ten of them - and it was a way to bring up good memories and keep the spirit of their friendship alive.
“Sun’s coming up!” Andie hollers at us all.
They all turn in unison and take a step into the subtle waves. The little orb rises over the ocean, slow, blinding, and truly beautiful. Everyone lets out a wonder-filled sigh and lean into their loved ones. They’d all been taken pictures of each other, mostly candid though some posed, but now it is a time to live in the moment. Once the sun rises enough, the picture taking would start again, but just for now… absolute appreciate filled the space around them.
Energy thick with love and wonder, with hope and passion, Retta couldn’t help but have goosebumps and feel her heart beat a little faster. Only one thought came clear through her mind: Life is beautiful. Not as an optimistic gesture, not to try and pull herself up, but truly, wholeheartedly she feels and believes with all her soul: Life is beautiful.
In the biggest, corner, half-circle booth of Denny’s, the hardcore group of friends had a buffet laid out on the massive table. Still in prom gear, even the girls hairstyles are mostly intact, skirts puffed up to the table and over the boys slacks. All going at all the plates, the food variety ranged from traditional breakfast food, other good choices like chicken fingers, and deserts. Memory sharing, lots of fun stories, random jokes with bursting laughter, and the elder waitress was oh-too-happy to take group photos. All the girls had kept up a pretty steady stream of photos for their Instagrams, which easy shared to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and the boys made sure to accept all the tagged posts onto their Facebook pages. Everything works like a well-oiled machine… it was mind-boggling to thing they’ve been doing stuff like this for over four years.
It wasn’t really going to change, Retta thought about slowly. Sure, she and Orion, April and Ceaser, and Cindy got scholarships to the University. But after two years, Jamie and Tommy, Andie and Chris, and Don are going to transfer from the Community College direct to the same University. And the schools were actually only, like, thirty minutes away….
“Things like this can still happen,” she random says, cutting through all the conversation.
Everyone looks to her, some laughing.
“Well, yeah! We’re all living within like a forty minute circle. We already know some great spots to meet for lunch between the two campuses, we’re all pretty much living together, and a weird number of our classes actually fill the same time slots. Nothing’s really going change….”
April gestured directly to Retta, “All the ladies here are in the same coven, also, so that’s a lifelong connection we’ll have! And the boys… well, all the same warlock fellowship. And…” her eyes drift to Caesar who nods with a chuckle. “Ceaser have officially started the traditional courtship!”
“Oh my God!” Retta reaches for April’s hand, “You guys! That’s so amazing. Ahh! I am so fucking happy for you.” If traditional courtship goes according to plan it leads to their engagement. She looks at her best friend with teary eyes and grips April’s hand hard, “Truly so fucking wonderful.”
Yawning again, Retta can’t seem to get through a full sentence without needing to do so. Latching on to Orion’s hand, she finishes gushing about how wonderful the past twenty-four hours have been while getting out of his car. A long blink, Retta sways on her bare feet, shoe backs curled in one finger.
“Shower and bed?” she inquires, eyes peeking at Orion.
Eyelids low, he nods slowly. “A bath would be even better but the effort…” he groans.
Walking together, leaning on each other, the sleepy love-birds walk around the front of the car to the front doors. Another long blink from Retta is cut off by Orion stopping. An unhappy, “Mmmh?” and she looks up at him.
He nods as an indication to look forward.
And there she is. An adult, female, Maine Coon. Long hair beautifully cascading around her body like a halo, a full mane around her expressive face. Long puff of a tale curled around her hip, front paws cross all lady-like and proper and totally regal. Her head rises ever so slightly from her paws and she takes a long blink of her golden eyes. Her expression is very obviously a ‘Well, there you are’.
When Retta’s eyes meet hers there a sort of bolt of energy that explodes from her chest. Fully energized, awake and ready to take on the world, Retta’s dominate hand clapped to her chest. Mind buzzing, heart pounding, lungs spasming, she just squeaks. One deep breath then her left hand starts flailing trying to reach Orion - reaching him and then smacking him again and again.
An outburst of joy, akin to a scream of excitement, and Loretta takes her first steps to her Familiar. As the young witch lowers herself against the steps up to the house, her Maine Coon stands, reaches forward and yawns. Then the Familiar comes to her witch, instantly purring, and rubbing her head all around Retta’s fingers and palm and wrist. Instantly their energies are intertwined, instantly their magics are combined, instantly they are bonded for life. Nothing can stop them now.